Thursday, March 26, 2009

They Laid Their Necks Bare

Many years ago the peaceCENTER developed a teaching tool called “The Great Peace March,” an illustrated timeline of peace and justice history, that we can hang on the wall, project on a screen or play as a bingo-type game. It begins with the first recorded practitioners of civil disobedience, Shiprah and Puah, the midwives who refused to kill the newborn male babies of the Hebrew women. (Exodus: 1-2, c. 1350 B.C.E.) Another instance of early Jewish resistance was not recorded in the Bible but rather recounted by the historian Josephus (pictured). We would invoke this example when we study Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience in the Class of Nonviolence.

Sedition of The Jews Against Pontius Pilate
by Flavius Josephus
The Antiquities of the Jews
But now Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, in order to abolish the Jewish laws. So he introduced Caesar's effigies, which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the former procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such ensigns as had not those ornaments. Pilate was the first who brought those images to Jerusalem, and set them up there; which was done without the knowledge of the people, because it was done in the night time; but as soon as they knew it, they came in multitudes to Cesarea, and interceded with Pilate many days that he would remove the images; and when he would not grant their requests, because it would tend to the injury of Caesar, while yet they persevered in their request, on the sixth day he ordered his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon his judgment-seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them; and when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers to encompass them routed, and threatened that their punishment should be no less than immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing him, and go their ways home. But they threw themselves upon the ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed; upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Cesarea.

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